Focal therapy offers middle ground for some prostate cancer patients

Scott Eggener, MD

Men with low-risk prostate cancer, detected early, used to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. They could choose aggressive treatment that stops the cancer but has the potential for significant side effects, such as incontinence, impotence and decreased bowel function. Or they could choose active monitoring, basically keeping an eye on the cancer and deferring treatment until it develops into something more threatening. This isn’t exactly an attractive choice, but now a clinical study here at UChicago could offer middle ground.

Urologist and surgeon Dr. Scott Eggener and radiologist Dr. Aytekin Oto recently published the results of a small, phase 1 trial that used “focal therapy” to treat prostate cancer. Focal laser ablation uses precisely targeted heat, delivered through a small insertion and guided into the prostate by magnetic resonance imaging, to burn away cancerous cells in the prostate. The trial found that this approach, designed to treat just the diseased portion of the prostate rather than removing or irradiating the entire gland, is safe and can be performed without the troubling complications associated with more aggressive therapies. Here are Eggener and Oto on the results:

Aytekin Oto, MD

“Focal therapy is the male version of a lumpectomy for breast cancer,” said study author Scott Eggener, MD, associate professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine. “Rather than removing the entire organ, we are testing this less-invasive way of destroying just the cancer and leaving healthy tissue in place.”

“This experimental approach appears to combine the most attractive element of treatment, eradication of the cancer, with the most appealing element of active surveillance, maintaining quality of life,” said Aytekin Oto, MD, professor of radiology and chief of abdominal imaging at the University of Chicago Medicine. “These early safety results are promising, but we definitely need longer-term data.”

Read more about the trial in our Newsroom. Phase 2 of the trial is currently underway, and the physicians are hoping to recruit more patients. You can find out more online at

Oto, A., Sethi, I., Karczmar, G., McNichols, R., Ivancevic, M., Stadler, W., Watson, S., & Eggener, S. (2013). MR Imaging-guided Focal Laser Ablation for Prostate Cancer: Phase I Trial Radiology DOI: 10.1148/radiol.13121652

About Matt Wood (531 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer and manager of communications at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences Division.
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